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>ChenTuan and Transformational-Alchemy :
>Mysterious Female Concepts : a clue to balance:


Livia Kohn 2001

This collection of three essays and five translations on the Song Daoist saint and immortal Chen Tuan goes back to work done over about a decade, from 1978 to 1990. It began with my dissertation (Leben und Legende des Chen Tuan, 1981), which focused on questions of legend development and the problem of what “immortality” meant as a religious ideal in the Song dynasty.

Later I supplemented this work with materials on Chen Tuan as a physiognomist. I had been aware of this role of his while writing my dissertation but could only access it when I went to Taiwan later. There I picked up the physiognomic handbook Shenxian quanbian, both in a Ming-dynasty manuscript (from the National Library) and in a modern paperback reprint. I then wrote about both this book and the Fengjian, a physiognomic manual closely linked with Chen Tuan, in articles which were published in Asian Folklore Studies (1986, 1988)

Following this, I prepared a volume for Taoist Resources (2.1) on Chen Tuan, scheduled to coincide with the thousandth anniversary of his “immortal transformation in 989. It contains an English summary of the results of my dissertation on legend development and a translation of his official Songshi biography, as well as Li Yuanguo's study of Chen Tuan as an Yijing philosopher, Terry Russell's examination of Chen Tuan in Japan, and Teri Takehiro's translation of a Ming work on inner alchemical soul-travels known as sleep.”

Working along, I wrote various presentations and made translations of materials that never were integrated into any published work. These materials I would now like to make accessible in digital form on eDao. They consist of three discussions and five translations.

The three discussions summarize my dissertation in English and present materials discussed in the article on Chen Tuan as physiognomist. They are not mere reprints, although they pick up the same materials, but add additional reflections and integrate more recent studies into the discussion. They are especially useful for students who wish to know about Chen Tuan's legends and his role at the Song court but do not read German.

The five translations have, for the most part, not been published previously. The first is the complete and amply annotated rendition of Chen Tuan's life according to the Lishi zhenxian tidao tongjian, a key source for the dissertation, but not translated there. The second is the literary rendition of Chen Tuan's vita in the Taihua xiyi zhi, which is translated into German as an appendix of the dissertation. The third, the physiognomic treatise Fengjian, appears in Asian Folklore Studies, 1988. The last two, Mayi daozhe zhengyi xinfa and Yin Zhenjun huandan gezhu, are poems closely associated with Chen Tuan and appear here for the first time. They are not annotated and may sound quite obscure, especially since they deal with Song-dynasty Yijing thought and inner alchemy.

All these translations should be of some use to students interested in Chen Tuan or different aspects of Song culture. They are not polished but may help as a starting or reference point for scholars and will certainly do more good on eDao than they will ever in my files at home.

Table of Contents

Discussion 1: The Immortal and his Legend
Saints and Saints-Legends
Sage, Immortal, Founder, Patriarch
Chen Tuan in Song Sources
Biji and Early Biographies
Later Legend Lineages
Integrating the Strands
Discussion 2: Physiognomy and Legitimation
Practical Application
Chen Tuan in Physiognomic Texts
Traditional Textbooks
Chen Tuan's Authorship
Physiognomic Theory
Bone Structure and Complexion
The Voice and the Eyes
Discussion 3: The Official Face of Chen Tuan
The Myth of the Imperial Adviser
Chen Tuan and the Imperial Court
Historical Encounters
Later Evaluations and Embellishments
"The Record of Master Xiyi of the Great Hua"
Translation 1: Lishi zhenxian tidao tongjian 47.1a-14b
"Comprehensive Mirror through the Ages of Perfected Immortals and Those Who Embody the Dao," by Zhao Daoyi (ca. 1300), ed. DZ 296; j. 47, "Chen Tuan."
Translation 2: Taihua xiyi zhi, ch.1
"Record of Master Xiyi of the Great Hua," by Zhang Lu (dat. 1314), ed. DZ 306; j. 1.
Translation 3: Fengjian
"Mirror of Auras," by Chen Tuan, ed.Yuguan zhaoshen ju; 1.4b-9b.
Translation 4: Mayi daozhe zhengyi xinfa
"The Hempclad Taoist's Method of the Mind Following His Proper Interpretation of the Book of Changes," by Mayi daozhe (10th c.), comm. by Chen Tuan, ed. Jindai bishu.
Translation 5: Yin Zhenjun huandan gezhu (DZ 134, fasc. 59)
"Commentary to the Songs on Reverting Cinnabar by the Perfected Yin," attr. to Chen Tuan, ed. DZ 134.
Primary Sources on Chen Tuan 131
Secondary Studies 139

Taoist Resources : (A Memorial to Chen Tuan) v.2 nr.1

Copyright:  by Livia Kohn  http://religion.rutgers.edu/SSCR/tr3.html

by LIVIA KOHN, Boston University

      Note: The abbreviation "CT" stands for the numbers of texts in the Daoist canon, following the concordance by Kristofer Schipper.

"CHEN TUAN (d. 989), zi Tu'nan, hao Fuyaozi, was an important Daoist master, thinker, fortune-teller, and legitimizing saint of the Song dynasty. Historically he appears first in 937, when he left an inscription at the Tianqing guan in Qiongzhou, Sichuan, praising the qi-methods of the local masters. It is likely that he was born in this area, although most sources claim that he came from Henan. In the 940's, he settled on Mount Hua, restoring the Yuntai guan and Yuquan yuan, which are still closely associated with him today. In the 950's he composed the Fengjian, a manual of physiognomy, which caused him to be later associated with the key handbook Shenxiang quanbian.
      In terms of official links, Chen Tuan met with Emperor Shizong of the Northern Zhou in 956, answering his questions on alchemy by giving spiritual advice. In 984, he mets Song Taizong and was given the title Xiyi xiansheng together with various material gifts. He then became the legitimizing saint of the new dynasty. In 989, he died on Mount Hua. Legend has it that he was 118 years old, which would place his birth in the 870s. Given the other data, a birthdate of around 920 is more likely. In addition, in the 960s-980s Chen Tuan met several high Song officials (Qian Ruoshui, Zhang Yong, Chong Fang) to read their fortunes and give them career advice. At the same time he also became known for his Yijing studies which influenced Zhou Dunyi's Taiji tu and Neo-Confucian thought.

    Surrounding these historical facts, there are many legends about Chen Tuan, telling of his wondrous encounter with a star lady as a child and his special memory power; mentioning a failed imperial examination at the capital, a period of Daoist training on Mount Wudang, a magical transfer by dragon to Mount Hua; stressing his wonderful ability to enter a deep trance, often for months, known as "sleep" and detailing various chance encounters with the future Song emperors whose imperial quality he recognized and other successful physiognomic examinations. They are found in Zhao Daoyi's Lishi zhenxian tidao tongjian (CTy296), and in the Taihua xiyi zhi (CT 306).

    In Yuan drama, Chen Tuan stars in Sanxing zhao, Bieyou tian, Pantao hui, and Chen Tuan gao wo. In the Ming dynasty, he appears as a master of inner alchemical meditation, a technique known as "sleep," described in the Chifeng sui. In Japan, finally, he is known as the planchette spirit who appeared in the Chan community on Mount Huangbo and inspired its leader Ingen to travel to Japan in the seventeenth century. Definitely identified as Chen Tuan, he is then known as Chen Bo, zi Wuyan


Kohn, Livia. 1988. "A Mirror of Auras: Chen Tuan on Physiognomy." Asian Folklore Studies 47: 215-56.

Kohn, Livia.. 1990. "Chen Tuan in History and Legend. " Daoist Resources 2.1: 8-31.

Li Yuanguo. 1985. Daojiao yanjiu wenji. Chengdu: Sichuan shehui yanjiu yuan.

Li, Yuanguo. 1990. "Chen Tuan's Concepts of the Great Ultimate." {Daoist Resources} 2.1: 32-53.

Russell, Terence C. 1990 "Chen Tuan's Veneration of the Dharma: A Study in Hagiographic Modification." Daoist Resources 2.1: 54-72.

Russell, T.C. 1990. "Chen Tuan at Mount Huangbo." Asiatische Studien/Etudes Asiatiques 44: 107-40.


Kohn, Livia 1988 'A Mirror of Auras - Chen Tuan on Physiognomy.'  Asian Folklore Studies 47: 215-56. 
Kohn, Livia 1990 'Chen Tuan in History and Legend.'  Taoist Resources 2.1: 8-31 
Li Yuanguo 1990 'Chen Tuan's Concepts of the Great Ultimate.' Taoist Resources 2.1: 32-53. 
Chang Po-tuan (trans. Cleary), The Inner Teachings of Taoism: 51-60 [60-104]
Yang Huarong a  1988 Guanyu Chen Tuan de jiguan On Chen Tuan's Birth Place Shijie Zongjiao, 1988: 152-153 
Li Yuanguo, 1985 Shilun Chen Tuan de yuzhou shengchenglun Chen Tuan's Cosmology Shijie Zongjiao, 1985: 48-71

Taoist Resources

Copyright:  by Livia Kohn  http://religion.rutgers.edu/SSCR/tr3.html

(A Memorial to Chen Tuan)

v.2 nr.1

Introduction:The Life of Chen Tuan after the History of the Song Livia Kohn 1-7
Chen Tuan in History and Legend Livia Kohn 8-31
Chen Tuan's Concepts of the Great Ultimate Li Yanguo 32-53
Chen Tuan's Veneration of the Dharma a study in Hagiographic Modification Terence C. Russell 54-72
Translation.The Twelve Sleep Exercises of Mount Hua Teri Takehiro 73-94
Recent Publications on Taoism 95

Livia Kohn, Boston University, eDao Books

Cultivating Stillness  by Eva Wong (Author)
Eva Wong -CopyRight

"... Major Ideas of Taoist Internal Alchemy TAOIST COSMOLOGY AND INTERNAL ALCHEMY Taoist cosmology and internal alchemy are best illustrated by Chen Hsi-i's unu-chi diagram, and much of the comments..."
"... a practice emerged. Both the Northern and Southern branches of the Complete Reality School and the Huashan School of Chen Hsi-1 attempted to "demythologize" Taoist internal alchemy. The writings from these schools contained less alchemical symbolism. Their approach differed from both Northern and Southern branches.."
"Chen Po... the Sung dynasty (960-979 C.E.), who combined the Confucianist and Taoist theories of the origin of things. He revised Chou Tuan-i's treatise T'ai-chi T'ao Shuo and wrote, "From wu-chi comes t'ai-chi. When t'ai-chi moves, it creates yang.."
Pre-yin/yang symbol "... was first revealed to a Taoist hermit known as the Sage of the River who passed it on to Wei Po-yang, author of the Triplex Unity. Chung Li-ch'uan, one of the ... a hermit on Huashan and passed the teachings on to Chen Hsi-i.